Photo credit: @theshipandanchorpub

From pints to passion, dive bars take your budget further

As the price of absolutely everything continues to rise, the idea of going out for a drink has become more complicated, and definitely more expensive. If you add to this the already-intricate complexities of modern dating, it becomes increasingly difficult for the budget conscious to find a way to take that special someone out for a drink without being preoccupied by cost rather than connection. 

With this in mind, I’ve got a suggestion: consider your friendly neighbourhood Dive Bar for your next date night. In fact, I’ll go even further and give you three reasons why a Dive Bar should be the location for your next date.

Before we begin, I should acknowledge that “Dive Bar” is a somewhat charged term that some proprietors may not appreciate being applied to their establishment, though let me assure you that my use of it here is not intended as an insult. Safer terms would be “low-key, casual bar” or “neighbourhood pub” or maybe it’s the place that you refer to as your “local” — in any case, what we are talking about here are characteristics that can commonly be found in these such establishments, and which simply can’t be re-created in high-end lounges or even brewery taprooms for the most part. So whether it’s your local, the dive down the road or a casual pub, here’s why you should consider these more casual spots for your next date.

Reason #1 – Cheap Drinks and Low Expectations (but in a good way)

Although it is entirely possible to purchase expertly conceived and absolutely delicious cocktails at your favorite low-key pub, the focus here instead tends to be on drinks of the more standard variety, or if you prefer, classics. Not only does this make the drinks more affordable, it takes the pressure off – you don’t have to feel compelled to order anything fancy to impress your date. Here it’s completely appropriate to order a PBR and you can even drink from the can. The expectations are lower, in all the right ways. This allows you to focus less on navigating a complicated cocktail menu and more on simply spending a great evening with your date. 

Reason #2 – Authenticity and lack of pretention

If the décor or aesthetic is a bit rough around the edges, consider it part of the charm – representing a considerable element of authenticity and true lack of pretentiousness. This authenticity can be further expanded beyond the general look of the place and can even be representative of the overall experience. I mean just look around – you would likely see a diverse selection of people representing all corners of society. Here you are just as likely to see someone in construction coveralls as wearing a suit and tie. In terms of your date, again it takes the pressure off — you don’t need to dress up or worry about fitting in at all. Both you and your date can feel free to simply be yourselves. 

Reason #3 – It’s fun

Having a great conversation over a drink is a wonderful way to get to know someone, but many low-key watering holes offer even more ways to break the ice. Beyond the cheap and cheerful drinks and often surprisingly delicious pub food, many feature classic games and activities from pool, darts, and foosball to online trivia and arcade games. But if you want the perfect activity that combines just the right amount of fun and excitement, while pushing you and your date just to the edge of your comfort zone, you can head over to one of the many divey bars that offer the always popular and often notorious — Karaoke Night. One of my best buddies stands by the notion that he can learn everything he could possibly ever want to know about someone based on their karaoke song choices. He also swears that he knew he was in love after first hearing the woman who would ultimately become his wife belt out a spotless rendition of Janice Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” Come to think of it, an unnaturally high number of my married friends met each other at karaoke nights – maybe we’re on to something here…

What a dive bar lacks in glamour and opulence, it makes up for in authenticity, lack of pretentiousness, and overall value — and who knows, maybe a little karaoke will be exactly what is needed to spark up a fiery romance — maybe some Janice Joplin is in order…

Bar Suggestions

The Ship & Anchor Pub

534 17th Ave. S.W.

Perhaps it’s a stretch to call the iconic Ship & Anchor Pub  a “dive bar” but it still possesses all the characteristics we’re looking for: honest food, good value, and a truly honest and authentic place where it just may simply be impossible to have anything but a great time. At The Ship, in addition to well-priced cocktails and particularly delicious pub grub, you’ll find an expertly curated selection of craft beer, and you can still grab a 20oz pint of Moosehead or PBR for under 8 bucks. There’s a reason why this place has been one of the top destinations in Calgary since time immemorial — lots of reasons actually.

Stonegate Pub 

7640 Fairmount Dr. S.E.

Located in a nondescript strip mall in the southeast community of Fairview, Stonegate Pub is a fun little hole-in-the-wall kind of place that simply hits the spot. The service is incredibly friendly and attentive, the beers are cold and cheap, and the karaoke is simply rockin’ on Thursday and Friday nights. I’m not sure I have ever met a more welcoming group of bar regulars who were both interesting and entertaining – a real comfortable pub, and a sure-fire great place for a fun date.

Rip’s Pub and Eatery 

25, 15 Millrise Blvd. S.W.

Located even further down south in the community of Millrise, Rip’s is a very popular neighbourhood pub that always satisfies by dishing out a consistently good time in a way that doesn’t break the bank.  The bartenders are fully capable of mixing up some tasty concoctions, but the go-to’s might just be the fantastic Caesars or the ever-popular Paralyzers – which bring back memories of my college days for better or for worse. For a mid-week date, come by for wing night on Wednesdays for possibly the best wings south of Glenmore Trail. Grab a beer and shoot some pool and see for yourself why Rips is a south end favorite.